10 Cities Where Homebuyers Pay Cash

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Nearly 38% of homes and condos purchased nationwide in the second quarter were all-cash transactions. While this was slightly lower than the previous quarter’s three-year high of 42% of transactions, it was also higher than the year before.

The portion of sales conducted exclusively in cash sales varied widely across the United States. In Madison, Wisconsin only 18.5% of home and condo purchases were all-cash sales, the lowest proportion nationwide. In the Miami metro area, more than 64% of home sales were all-cash sales. Based on data provided by RealtyTrac, a housing data and analytics firm, these are the cities where home buyers pay with cash.

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Although demographics of home purchasers are not specifically tracked, all-cash homebuyers usually fall into three categories, Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, told 24/7 Wall St. Blomquist identified the first type as institutional investors, who buy homes that will serve as rental properties. The second type includes international buyers who buy properties because they see “U.S. real estate as a safe haven for their cash.” Finally, retirees often pay in cash as well.

The higher activity of institutional investors in recovering housing markets can partly explain the high levels of cash purchases in some areas. These buyers are defined as “entities that purchase at least 10 properties in a calendar year.” Seven of the 10 cities with the highest shares of cash-only buyers were also among the top 20 cities for the percentage of shares to institutional buyers. Notably, institutional investors bought roughly 15% of all homes sold in the Las Vegas metro area in the second quarter, more than in all but one other city nationwide.

All-cash sales tend to be more likely in areas with distressed housing markets. This is especially the case in cities where real estate markets were hit hardest during the recession. In Florida, where home prices plummeted during the Great Recession, all-cash purchases made up the majority of home sales. Eight of the 10 cities with the most home buyers paying cash are located in Florida.

Short sales is another measure of a distressed housing market. A short sale occurs when a house sells for less than the balance of the outstanding mortgage debt. Although it is not always the case, a short sale “is and indication that the market is still working through distress and underwater properties, and generally that is a good opportunity for investors to come in who are paying with cash,” Blomquist said. The metro areas where home buyers most frequently paid with cash also had among the highest proportions of short sales. All but one of these markets was among the top 10 markets for short sales.

Cash sales also tended to be higher for both the lowest-priced and most expensive properties. They made up two-thirds of purchases of homes selling for up to $100,000, as well as 45% of purchases of homes selling for more than $2 million. According to Blomquist, institutions tend to favor the lower-end properties, while international buyers typically prefer the higher-priced homes.

Based on data provided by RealtyTrac, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the cities where the largest percentage of homes sold in the second quarter of 2014 were purchased with cash. RealtyTrac also provided median list price and short sale data as of July 2014, as well as quarterly institutional sales data. Figures on the percentages of households with a mortgage are from the U.S. Census Bureau and are current as of 2012.

These are the 10 cities where homebuyers are paying cash.